Interpreting The Evidence on Human Reasoning

PostsInterpreting The Evidence on Human Reasoning

I recently read two largely unrelated articles. Much like french fries and milkshakes, they go together well even though you might not expect it.

If you have a technical bent, read this whole article. It’s about a guy building electronic brains, and it’s fascinating. If you just want the salty-sweet juxtaposition, just read the first question on the third page here.

Now read this article on the recent friction between science and politics.
What’s interesting is the fact that the observations of the first article cast the second article in a disturbing but understandable light.  As thinking creatures in what some assume is an age of reason, it’s comforting to think of reason as being somehow inherent in ourselves.  In a democracy, it’s most depressing to conceive that your voting peers might lack that spark of reason that we’ve hoped drives a democracy towards informed legislation.
The sad truth appears to be that the brain is really just a powerful, dynamic pattern-matching system.  While this makes it very generally applicable, it also means that it’s possible to train it to match in a way that is wholly incompatible with logic and reason.  I guess nurture wins out of nature on this one.
What I find to be most interesting is that this is a clue that many AI researchers are focusing in the wrong places.  It’s pretty clear that achieving intelligence in a human sense will have to be highly statistical in implementation.  While I do sincerely hope that we can someday build a logic processor that is based entirely on semantically-infused logic, I wonder at how such a machine would contrast with humanity.

About Jayson Vantuyl

I live in San Francisco, California; have an awesome son, David; and make machines do (subjectively) interesting things. I'm generally an all around handy fellow.

1 comment

  • Reply Defiler said: June 5, 2009 7:03 am

    Very interesting. Looking forward to reading that article/interview in full.

    Have you seen "How We Decide" by Jonah Lehrer? I just finished it, and it discusses these topics in extremely readable detail. I highly recommend it.

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